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Papua Sees Consecutive Infant Mortality Cases
Wednesday, 02 August, 2017 | 15:18 WIB
Papua Sees Consecutive Infant Mortality Cases

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Deiyai district in Papua has seen a series of infant mortality cases in the past five months. The figure continues to rise as similar cases have also been found in more areas, from four to nine villages in Tiga Barat district.

Pastor Damianus Adii of Diyai Church said that 90 infants and five men died between March and July. “Three infants reportedly died in the past week alone in Digikotu village,” Damianus said yesterday, August 1.

Digikotu is one of four villages where infant mortality cases with measles-like symptoms were found last month. Aside from Digikotu, same cases were found in three other villages: Piyakedimi, Yinidoba and Epaniai. Infants reportedly suffered diarrhea, mouth injuries, bloodshot eyes and high body temperature for days before death.

Damianus said that medical examinations conducted by local doctors reveal that the toddlers died from a number of diseases, such as measles, diarrhea, upper respiratory tract infection and dysentery. Some died in the villages due to delayed medical treatment and others died at the hospital.

Delayed treatment was caused by the lack of medical facility in Deiyai district that only has 10 community health centers [puskesmas] and five doctors, Damianus said. The puskesmas only open four days a week. “We also experience water scarcity and the lack of basic medication,” he said.

Deiyai Regent Tance Takimai said that consecutive infant mortality cases were normal, not an outbreak. “They were caused by the lack of awareness about healthy lifestyle,” he said. Tance added that data from Health Office shows that only 27 infants died between March and July.

Mohamad Subuh, Director General of Disease Prevention and Control, the Health Ministry, said that infant mortality cases in Deiyai were caused by low awareness about vaccination. In 2016, only 5.5 percent of infants were vaccinated. “We have access issues so that the services have not been carried out routinely,” he said. Subuh has dismissed the report that the number of mortality cases has risen. He said that the latest data show that only 27 infants died from March to July due to diarrhea, lung inflammation, measles, dysentery, malnutrition, bug bites and allergies.

The National Commission on Human Rights commissioner Natalius Pigai has visited Tigi Barat district to learn more about the incident. He has criticized the central government for saying that infant mortality cases in the region were caused by ordinary diseases. “The root causes have to be examined; why is the number of infant mortality so high?” he said.


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